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Does Egypt’s Crisis Represent A Failure Of Democracy?

Does Egypt’s Crisis Represent A Failure Of Democracy?

Ousting an elected president by the military, without an election, is unquestionably undemocratic, say analysts.

The past few days in Egypt have been a stark reminder of the country’s fragile and feeble democracy.

In what has been described by some as a military coup, the army ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi last week, after tens of thousands of protesters gathered on the streets to demand his resignation.

While the government is still in flux, at least 35 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded in continuing clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters.

As chaos reigns, one fact has clearly emerged: Egypt’s first attempt at democracy has been a failure.

“It’s a mixed situation in terms of democracy,” explains Ashraf Khalil, a Cairo-based journalist and author.

“The military ended the term of the democratically elected government and so in that sense, it’s a fairly non- democratic scenario. But what’s happened is that it’s a popular coup. There’s no denying that a large percentage of the country had turned against Mohammed Morsi in a way that might just have made it impossible for him to govern,” he stated.

“It is concerning to see a democratically elected government being thrown out by the military establishment setting a wrong precedent in an already volatile region,” agreed M. R. Raghu, senior vice president of research at Kuwait Financial Centre.

“However in another sense the political establishment of Egypt was going nowhere with popular interest groups at continuous odds with the ruling group preventing Egypt from normalising.”

Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi, who won 51.7 per cent of the votes during Egypt’s first democratic election in June last year, replaced former President Hosni Mubarak, who was forced to step down by an angry nation after his three-decade long rule.

However, Morsi’s policies have so far proved largely unsuccessful, and experts say he has even managed to upset several loyalists who voted for him a year ago.

“I can understand why Morsi had to go in the short term,” said Khalil.

“The politics in this first rein were terrible – you can argue that his first priority should have been to build consensus, since he was coming into a wounded and divided nation. He should have tried to bring people together and he did the opposite. He alienated so many people. So I can understand why all these people wanted to see him go.

“But in terms of sheer democracy, the Brotherhood has a very persuasive argument,” he added.

“They say ‘Look we know he’s unpopular, we know he’s made mistakes. We have no problem with him losing his job in an election. We have a problem with him losing his job because of protests. That’s not right’.”

Bringing in the armed forces, who were forced to rule Egypt for a year and a half after Mubarak’s defeat, is both disturbing and dangerous, he explained.

“If the army sticks to its promise of holding elections on time and installing an elected government without any major bloodshed, the move will prove to be good for the long run prospects of the economy,” added M.R. Raghu.

“However, history reminds us that such a promised schedule is never held in deference and we may run the risk of the army holding on to more time than what is envisaged on some pretext or other,” he stated.

It’s impossible to predict what’s next for Egypt, said Khalil. “A lot depends on how the military handles this and a lot depends on how the brotherhood reacts… But these are not democratically inclined people by definition, by nature. So we have to wait and see.”

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